Shakira, a Grammy-winning singer and activist, is publicly slamming the United States for "unimaginably cruel immigration policies" that have resulted in the separation of thousands of children from their families at the southern border.
In an open letter published Friday by Time Magazine, Shakira points out that lawyers tasked with identifying migrant families separated under President Donald Trump's "zero tolerance" policy still haven’t been able to track down the parents of 545 children.
About two-thirds of those parents have already been deported to Central America.
"In 'the land of the free,' there are 545 children now stuck in no-man’s-land, at risk of growing up without a mom or dad, 545 children who have to go to sleep without someone to reassure them that they aren’t in danger at any given moment, 545 children who can’t hug, laugh or have any contact with the people they love most," Shakira writes.
The Trump administration instituted a "zero tolerance" policy in 2018 that separated 2,800 migrant children and parents at the southern U.S. border. It later confirmed it had actually begun separating families in 2017 along some parts of the border under a pilot program.
Many of the more than 1,000 parents separated from their children under the pilot program had already been deported before a federal judge ordered that they be found.
Approximately 60 of these children were under the age of 5 when they were first separated from their parents, Shakira writes. "As a mother, I think about my youngest son, who is now 5. I think about how he cries for me when he skins his knee, and the pain I feel if I am not there to comfort him. Who answers the cries of the children left without their parents?"
The Colombian recording artist, who is of Lebanese heritage, asks how can a nation "that purports to hold family values in such high regard, have such unimaginably cruel immigration policies? What rationale could justify separating children from their families, with no intention of ever reuniting them, when the U.S. has prided itself on being a beacon of hope for those who come from places where not even basic needs or safety are a guarantee?"
"Policies like family separation are born out of cruelty," says the musician and philanthropist, whose full name is Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll. "This policy is not about protecting people or making communities safer. The unspeakable tragedy taking place at America’s southern border is about hate and the denial of basic human rights."
Medical groups have unanimously denounced the family separations, citing the harmful effects on children's emotional and psychological development and well-being, including post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues.
"This is not about politics. There is simply no justification for the harm caused to these innocent children, and the people responsible for this cruel policy must be held accountable," Shakira writes, urging the public to speak up in order "to bring them back together."
"Speaking up isn’t always easy, especially when one is not an American citizen and can be perceived as an outsider commenting on domestic policies. However, the United States’ decisions affect us all, even more so when children’s lives are on the line. So it becomes a common and urgent responsibility to share the stories of these families, no matter where they are from," Shakira writes. "Now is not the time to be silent."